US 20050116101 A1
Systems for supplying emergency oxygen or other gases to persons are addressed. The systems may include pod assemblies mounted on fixed-position masts between or adjacent passenger seats or pop-up modules installed within upper portions of seat backs. The pod assemblies and pop-up modules additionally may include other passenger-service equipment. Also optionally included in the systems are modular central gas supplies and alternative oxygen mask designs for passengers.
1. A vehicle seat assembly comprising:
a. a seat having a back; and
b. means, positioned partially or completely within the seat back or within a container adjacent the seat, for supplying emergency oxygen to the occupant of the seat.
2. A vehicle seat assembly according to
3. A vehicle seat assembly according to
4. A vehicle seat assembly according to
5. A vehicle seat assembly according to
6. A vehicle seat assembly according to
7. A vehicle seat assembly according to
8. A vehicle seat assembly according to
a. a pop-up module; and
b. an oxygen mask housed within the module.
9. A vehicle seat assembly according to
10. A vehicle seat assembly according to
11. A vehicle seat assembly according to
12. A vehicle seat assembly according to
13. An emergency oxygen mask assembly comprising:
a. an emergency oxygen mask; and
b. a coiled oxygen supply line connected directly or indirectly to the mask.
14. An emergency oxygen mask assembly comprising:
a. an emergency oxygen mask;
b. an oxygen supply line connected directly or indirectly to the mask; and
c. a pleated breathing bag connected directly or indirectly to the mask.
15. An emergency oxygen mask comprising:
a. a breathing cup; and
b. means for either compressing the cup for stowage or expanding the cup for use.
16. An emergency oxygen supply system for a passenger aircraft having a cargo bay, the system comprising:
a. a compartment configured for installation into the cargo bay;
b. at least one oxygen container in the compartment; and
c. means for providing fluid communication from the oxygen container to an occupant of the aircraft.
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/518,499 filed on Nov. 7, 2003, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
This invention relates to systems for supplying gases and more particularly, but not exclusively, to systems furnishing oxygen in emergencies to passengers onboard vehicles such as, but not limited to, commercial aircraft.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,609,166 to Brennan and 5,154,374 to Beroth, incorporated herein in their entireties by this reference, disclose emergency oxygen-supply systems for aircraft. Included in the systems are oxygen-generating canisters located beneath seat cushions of commercial aircraft seats and oxygen masks positioned within the backs of the seats. Because the masks are positioned within seat backs, access to them is available only from the rears of the seats, so that the masks are intended for use only by passengers sitting in a row behind the seats in which the oxygen-generating canisters are located.
Detailed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,795,018 to Schumacher, et al. is an alternative oxygen-supply system for use in passenger cabins of aircraft. One version of the system includes a hollow, tubular bail associated with each passenger seat and at least partly framing its backrest. Incorporated in the bail is a head section containing, among other things, both an oxygen mask and an oxygen generator. Unlike the systems of the Brennan and Beroth patents, however, that of the Schumacher '018 patent is designed so that the oxygen mask resident in a particular head section is accessible to the passenger sitting in the associated seat.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,984,415 to Schumacher, et al. discusses cabin seats having passenger service units constructed as columns and arranged as “seat complementing components.” According to the Schumacher '415 patent, such a component is defined to mean “a separate service component independent of the seat but fully capable of cooperating with the respective passenger seat for the passenger's comfort.” See Schumacher '415, col. 2, 11. 55-58. Each component cooperates with a single seat to house, in a head section also functioning as a privacy shield, “essential passenger comfort and service elements such as a reading lamp, a loudspeaker or headphone jacks and an oxygen mask.” See id., col. 4, 11. 39-41 (numerals omitted). An oxygen generator is disposed within a lower section of the component below an armrest.
Whereas some embodiments of the columnar components of the Schumacher '415 patent provide mask access to the passenger seated in the seat associated with the component, other versions provide oxygen masks to passengers seated in a row behind the associated seats. Yet other embodiments of the Schumacher '415 patent incorporate oxygen masks and generators within arm rests of passenger seats. The contents of the Shumacher patents are incorporated in their entireties herein as well by this reference.
Generally, however, emergency passenger oxygen systems are located in passenger service units placed in overhead modules of commercial aircraft. Because so positioned, the service units must be configured to conform to spacing (pitch) between seat rows and the number of seats in a row so that each passenger has ready access to an oxygen mask when deployed for emergency use. This required matching of service units and seating arrangements complicates the design of seating configurations within a vehicle and makes modification of existing designs time consuming.
Further, because the service units are placed in overhead modules, lower cabin ceilings inevitably result from their use. These lower ceilings impede passenger ingress to and egress from respective seats and reduce the amount of headroom and storage space available to transiting passengers. As a consequence, at least some aircraft builders believe customer satisfaction is impacted negatively when overhead passenger service units are used.
Aircraft builders also have expressed interest in thinner seat designs. They thus may be reluctant to deploy some of the systems described above, in which oxygen-related equipment is incorporated into a seat back. Placing the equipment in the seat back additionally may be problematic for structural certification reasons and because of potential accessibility problems depending on whether, and if so how, the seat is reclined.
The present invention provides, among other things, alternative pod assemblies associated with passenger seats. The assemblies, which need not bear one-to-one correspondence with seats, may include both oxygen-supplying and other equipment used or available for use by passengers. Non-limiting examples of such equipment include in-flight entertainment controls and equipment, telephones, seatbelt annuciators, reading lights, flight attendant call controls, and seat-movement controls. The assemblies additionally optionally may contain devices sensing whether a passenger is present or absent from a particular seat and, conceivably, means for communicating verbally with flight attendants, other cabin crew, or other passengers.
As, purportedly, with the components of the Schumacher '415 patent, the present pod assemblies avoid any need for locating any passenger service equipment overhead. However, unlike the components of the Schumacher '415 patent, the pod assemblies may be positioned between seats or otherwise not be connected to any seat backs. Accordingly, the pod assemblies need not necessarily move (and thus need not suffer move-related damage) when a seat back is reclined. Similarly, a single pod assembly positioned between two seats may provide passenger-service equipment for both adjacent seats.
Various embodiments of the pod assemblies are mounted on masts forming structural elements of sets of seats. Oxygen masks present in the pods may deploy via a hinged or other door or hatch therein. If desired, moreover, the pod assemblies may incorporate service doors to facilitate maintenance and replacement of equipment contained within. Pod assemblies additionally may function as head rests (particularly for sides of passenger heads), although preferably passengers will be unable to rest heads on any mask-deployment doors.
Pod assemblies with fixed positions also provide constant reference points for passengers. Stated differently, regardless of how a seat back is reclined, the oxygen mask for the corresponding occupant will deploy to the same location, allowing the occupant always to know where the mask will be when deployed. Similarly, mask deployment may always occur in view of the passenger, again regardless of how his or her seat is reclined.
Some versions of the invention incorporate oxygen-generating materials within the pod-mounting masts. In these configurations, conventional lanyard firing mechanisms may be used to commence oxygen generation. Those skilled in the art will, of course, recognize that other mechanisms may be employed instead.
Alternatively, oxygen generating apparatus may be centralized within the aircraft or other vehicle. If the apparatus is centralized, lengths of gas-supply tubing may be included within the masts to connect, directly or indirectly, individual oxygen masks to the central supply. Preferably, the tubing terminates at quick-connect fittings at the junction between a seat and the cabin floor, where they may be connected to the central supply. Yet alternatively, chemical or other oxygen generators may be deployed throughout the aircraft cabin rather than centralized. In some embodiments of the invention consistent with this approach, generators may be placed under seats, preferably adjacent the cabin floor, and connected to the tubing in the mast (or within or alongside seat frames) using the same quick-connect fittings (or otherwise). When the gas generators are remote from the masks, an electrical firing mechanism may be used to commence oxygen flow when a mask is activated by a passenger for use.
Discussed herein also are versions of the invention omitting some or all of the pod assemblies (or omitting some of their functionality) in favor of seat mounted oxygen-supply equipment. Unlike the systems of the Brennan and Beroth patents, in which oxygen masks deploy rearward from rears of seat backs, these embodiments utilize pop-up modules in the upper sections of the seats. When needed to be deployed, the masks become accessible through popping-up of the modules, after which they fall forward, toward the occupants of their corresponding seats. Hence, in these embodiments, a mask within a seat is presented to the seat occupant (as opposed to the occupant of a seat in a succeeding row) and deploys toward the occupant with assistance of gravity.
Additional aspects of the invention include innovative central gas-supply systems. Particularly useful for extended-range operations of twin-engine aircraft (ETOPS), these systems may be used to provide oxygen to passengers for extended periods of time (potentially sixty minutes or more). Included in the systems are multiple oxygen bottles placed in racks enclosed in dedicated compartments shaped to conform with cargo luggage compartment standards. Configuring the systems in this manner makes them modular and capable of being inserted into or removed from cargo bays rather than placed along the fuselage of an aircraft, as conventional oxygen-canister racks are. The modular compartments additionally may include connectors allowing rapid and easy connections to gas-transit tubing and electrical harnesses.
Finally, aspects of the present invention may include novel oxygen masks themselves. Because the pod assemblies and pop-up modules of the invention may provide limited space in which to house oxygen masks, the masks advantageously may be redesigned to reduce the space required for their storage. In some embodiments, the masks may have portions (particularly the cups) made of material with memory. Consequently, these masks may be compressed for storage but, when deployed, may return to their original forms. Alternative embodiments may provide cups (made of paper or other material) with a metal spring, spire, or other device designed to cause the cups to expand to appropriate shape upon deployment. Alternatively or additionally, either or both of the supply tubing or the bags associated with the masks may be made accordion-style so as to facilitate their storage in smaller volumes, and if optimized oxygen flow (RFCU) is physiologically possible, further reduction in bag size may result.
It thus is an optional, non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide systems for supplying emergency oxygen or other gases to passengers within a vehicle.
It is another optional, non-exclusive object of the invention to provide assemblies associated with passenger seats.
It is also an optional, non-exclusive object of the invention to provide such assemblies with pods in which passenger-service equipment such as, but not limited to, oxygen masks may be contained.
It is, moreover, an optional, non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide fixed-position masts on which pods may be mounted, so that passenger-service equipment may be equally available to passengers regardless of the orientation of their associated seats.
It further is an optional, non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide modular gas-supply systems for vehicles such as aircraft.
It is yet another optional, non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide gas-supply systems designed to conform with standard aircraft luggage compartments.
It is an additional optional, non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide alternative passenger oxygen masks reducing the amount of space required for their storage.
Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the relevant art with reference to the remainder of the text and the drawings of this application.
Depicted in FIGS. 1A-B and 2A-B are portions of seat cluster 10 consistent with aspects of the present invention. As shown in these figures, cluster 10 comprises seats 14 (denoted 14A and 14B), each designed for a single human occupant. However, those skilled in the relevant field understand that cluster 10 may contain fewer or more seats 14 than the two illustrated in
Each of seats 14A and 14B may include components common to seats presently in use in vehicles (particularly commercial aircraft). Referring to seat 14A, for example, it may include seat back 18A, seat bottom 22A, and optionally at least one arm rest 26A. Also detailed in
Mounted or otherwise attached to mast 42 is pod assembly 38. Pod assembly 38 may include door 46, typically (although not necessarily) hinged to facilitate its remaining open when appropriate. Incorporated into pod assembly 38 may be various passenger-service equipment including (but not necessarily limited to) one or more emergency oxygen masks 50. When emergency oxygen is required for the occupants of seats 14A and 14B, for example, door 46 opens—preferably automatically—and (at least) two such masks 50 are deployed. Alternatively, pod assembly 38 may contain two doors 46, one for each occupant of seats 14A and 14B, with at least one mask 50 positioned behind each door 46. Preferably, any doors 46 open to the front of the plane of upright seat backs 18A and 18B, so that masks 50 are immediately accessible to the occupants of seats 14A and 14B. In this configuration, a service door or hatch conceivably could be provided in the rear of pod assembly 38. (If, however, pod assembly 38 is intended to provide masks 50 to occupants of seats behind seats 14A and 14B, any doors 46 advantageously may open to the rear of mast 42 and any service door present may open to the front or side of mast 42.)
In a version of mast 42 illustrated in FIGS. 2A-B, one or more chemical oxygen generators 54 may be incorporated within the mast 42. So doing reduces the amount of tubing needed to provide fluid connection between a generator 54 and corresponding masks 50. Positioning generator 54 within mast 42 additionally reduces the possibility of a passenger inadvertently contacting the generator 54 and either being burned by heat generated by it or impeding its operation.
Illustrated somewhat conceptually in
The foregoing is provided for purposes of illustrating, explaining, and describing exemplary embodiments and certain benefits of the present invention. Modifications and adaptations to the illustrated and described embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the relevant art and may be made without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention.